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[liveblog] ACT-IAC opening session

I’m at an ACT-IAC conference. (I’m the dinner speaker.) The opening session is a discussion with seven government IT and industry leaders.

  • Case Coleman, Unisys

  • Mary Davie, GSA

  • Annie Rung, OMB

  • Lisa Schlosserl e-gov office of OMB

  • Kathleen Turco, Veterans Health Admin

  • Renee Wynn, NASA CIO

  • Margie Graces, DHS (moderator)

Yes, all women. I know from the organizers that this was not done on purpose. Unfortunately, there are no name signs or labels on the screen I’m looking at—I’m all the way on the margin of a wide breakfast room with maybe 1,500 people in it, so I can’t tell who is who, so this will be unattributed except where the speaker indicates where she’s from.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

– The moderator asks how the Internet of Things is affecting them.

– The person from NASA points out that this now includes devices beyond our solar system.

– The growth of the Net into the physical world brings challenges. E.g., drones.

– NASA: We have to bring together all sorts of info, for example in a disaster. That includes drone info but also about physical infrastructure, health care records,etc. We have to integrate the stove pipes. “One single stream of info won’t give you the whole picture.” She gives as an example the fact that she sometimes takes off her FitBit, so it does not give a complete picture.

– Also for intel assessments.

– This requires a progressive view of what’s going on in computing.

– We need to be able to embrace the cloud, scale up and down, embrace the new environment.

– “The privacy side terrifies me.” There’s been progress made in the “sprint” to modernize IT, to change the conversation. But it’s a marathon. The effort has support from the top. It’s a consistent part of the agenda. We need to measure, measure, measure.

– NASA: Cybersecurity has to change. Moats and castles are no longer adequate defenses. When the human body gets a splinter, it sends antibodies right to that splinter so you won’t get infected. “Are we going towards an injection into our network and then quickly sending the right bots to isolate and report back so we can decide what’s the best way to proceed? We have to evolve.”

– DHS [I think]: We’re doing the band-aids we need to do now. But we know we have to evolve, both in the private and public sectors. There are no edges any more. We’re piloting some of this different thinking in our R&D efforts. You’ll see more about this in the very near future.

– Part of this is predictive analysis, so we can “skate to the puck,” as they say.

– We need to create environments where people can do their best work. We’re no longer in an industrial age where everyone does the same thing in a repetitive fashion. Info workers each bring a unique intellectual contribution.

– We’re all trying to adopt the “servant leadership” model, getting obstacles out of the way.

– NASA: We have to raise the next generation of leaders. I talk to my 23 yr old son — “parenting by text”—sound familiar to any of you? — and there’s no sensitivity to privacy, and, distressingly, little consideration of cyber. E.g., the next gen will have to think about how to have a workforce that’s human and robotic. How do we prepare them for the next big change?

– Moderator: How do we get our message out so we can hire better?

– DHS: We brought together 30 student leaders and had them engage on this. It was amazing.

– Mod: There’s a lot more circulation through employers. That’s enriching for the organizations. Then there’s FITARA, which empowers agency-level CIOs.

– Some CFOs are scared of it, but I welcome it. We need the CIOs and the acquisition folks to be at the table. There need to be joint decisions across the agencies and departments.

– FITARA calls for IT cadres [?]. We kicked off our first class for acquisition professionals. Six month hands-on training. We want to train them going from the 90 page specification document to much more compact, ourcome-focused descriptions, smaller work modules, etc.

– We’ve got to do problem solving in every corner of the room, whiteboarding, brainstorming, move on from the problem to the solution quickly. When the acquisition and finance sides of the equation start to support that, we’re getting some of the old obstacles out of the way.

– We’re all in agreement that we need to do things differently in the federal market, moving to rapid info sharing. Currently we spend a couple of years to get the requisition out, then a year to make a decision, and then the tech is out of date. Now the contracting community has to know the org charts for every agency so they can gather info. “You shouldn’t have to know the org chart of the agency to get the info you need.”You shouldn’t have to know the org chart of the agency to get the info you need. We’re now starting to provide the right tools for info sharing and collaboration.

– VA: Funding isn’t going to increase. We’ve got tto find savings in the system: collaboration, governance, and do new things in acquisition.

– An example: Someone [couldn’t get who] is narrowing bidders down to five and asking each to do a quick prototype.

– Category management: divide the things that agencies acquire into categories and bring in a category expert who may not be a procurement expert. The supplier piece is crucial. it means figuring out what your customers need. Category mgt began in the retail industry. They developed customer profiles. We need that approach.

VA: We’re at last beginning to treat our veterans as customers, putting them and their experience first. They’re not happy but we’re getting better. Same for employees. Too many hoops to hire someone new. We need to speed that up.

– We’ve never asked industry how agencies do in acquisitions. Now we’re doing 360s on specific IT acquisitions. The first set of data comes in in Nov. We’re going to identify best practices and where we’re not doing so well. Was there an adequate debrief? Were you given enough time to respond? We’ve never asked these questions before.

– Within your zone of trust in govt you don’t realize that people outside of it have so much trouble getting info.

– We should be using all of our authority to make progress in acquisitions. There’s lots we can do.

– Our contracting officers are recognizing that the more conversations we have about the actual challenges we’re facing within IT, we can brainstorm things before we even get to the table. There are many mechanisms for doing that, including prototyping, etc.

– We have to move away from the rules based approach, to focusing on the outcomes. [applause] “Yeah, break the rules! Nah, I’m not saying that. Take responsible risks :) ”Yeah, break the rules! [clearly joking] Nah, I’m not saying that. Take responsible risks.

-It’s a huge challenge to let your appropriators know that we have to move forward

– Mod: This is more like a revolution than an evolution. It’s a groundswell. We’re not going to let up. There’s a lot of education to do. A consistent message coming from IT, acquisitions and finance sectors, it’ll get through.

[Not a single mention that this was an all-woman panel, which makes me even happier.]

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